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News

Israel commandos launch raid into northern Gaza Strip

Israeli commandos have launched a raid into Gaza, exchanging gunfire with Hamas militants. Meanwhile, the Israeli military has vowed to intensify its bombing campaign against the densely populated Palestinian enclave.

A team of Israeli navy commandos launched a small ground incursion on the northern Gaza coast on Sunday, in an attempt to destroy a site used to launch long-range rockets.

The commandos exchanged fire with Hamas militants and hit the site, according to the Israeli military, which said four of the commandos were lightly injured.

Hamas said that it had fired on the commandos before they reached shore, forcing them to turn back.

The raid was the first publicly acknowledged Israeli ground incursion into the Gaza Strip since "Operation Protective Edge" began earlier this week. Israel has not ruled out a ground invasion, mobilizing 20,000 reservists so far and massing troops on the border with Gaza.

'Attack with great force'

Israel has launched more than 1,200 airstrikes against Gaza this week, killing at least 149 Palestinians. Many of the dead were civilians, including women and children.

On Saturday, Israel destroyed a Palestinian charity for the mentally and physically disabled. According to its director, two people were killed in the strike, including a woman with cerebral palsy and a patient with severe mental handicaps.

Chief military spokesman Brig. Gen. Motti Almoz said Israel plans to intensify its offensive against Gaza over the next day.

"We are going to attack there with great force in the next 24 hours due to a very large concentration of Hamas efforts in that area," Almoz said.

The Israeli government has warned Palestinian civilians to leave northern Gaza "for their own safety." While

critics have accused Israel of recklessly firing

into densely populated areas, Israel says that Hamas uses civilians as human shields.

Hamas has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel, some of which have been intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome defense system.

So far, no Israelis have been killed by Hamas rocket attacks.

slk/ng (AP, Reuters)